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Consumers & Credit Cards

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    Consumers & Credit Cards

    By Mike Killian is the Debt/Credit Management Reporter for <a href=""></a>

    The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System with the cooperation of the U.S. Department of the Treasury conducted a survey which indicates changes in family income and net worth since the same survey in 2001.

    Among other findings, the report indicates average credit card balances are rising, average interest rates are increasing and there has been an increase in the average number of cards per American family. These disturbing stats come at a time when minimum payments have been increased by many institutions and bankruptcy laws are getting tougher.

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    I approached debt expert Scott Bilker on some of these issues. Scott is the founder of and the author of Credit Card and Debt Management, How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart and Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt.

    Concerning the above trends, Scott made some rather pointed statements:

    <blockquote>"I believe that these changes reflect the fact that our legal system cannot, or is not, protecting us enough from lender practices like unfair penalty rates and increasing fees (late, over limit, etc.). People need to repay their debts, BUT banks needs to be fair and lend responsibly.
    Why is it that consumers are penalized for bad spending behaviors and banks are not penalized by bad lending behaviors? One may argue that banks are penalized when people default, but I would say that's not true because:

    <li>There are tougher bankruptcy laws on the books now.</li>
    <li>The institutions simply pass along these costs to existing consumers."</li></blockquote>

    I then asked Scott if he saw these trends as a collision course for us as an economic society. Again, very wittingly, he responded:

    <blockquote>"The collision is here! The numbers are getting worse and worse. That's why credit card and debt management is so important. That's why it's important to be "Debt Smart". The people who are proactive in making the banks compete for their business will do well, those who spend without doing the math are doomed."</blockquote>

    Following up I posed the question, "Why does the Office of Comptroller Currency (OCC) and other federal agencies seem so quiet outside this survey?"

    <blockquote>"Now that's a great question! I don't really know, and I'm not much for conspiracy theories. The answer is probably that banks have been smart about positioning themselves politically."</blockquote>

    As a final question I asked, "Are there things we can do to reverse some of these trends?"

    <blockquote>"Yes! Don't be loyal to any specific bank. Only use credit cards that give you the best deals. Keep your other accounts open though as you will need at least a few credit cards to make the banks fight for your business. Of course, you must use them responsibly and for the sole purpose of keeping your rates low."</blockquote>

    Scott also made a final remark which I believe is worth noting:

    <blockquote>"As a nation, I expect that personal debt will continue to rise! If you're reading this article, then you will probably do fine because you're interested in learning, but those people who are not paying attention will be burned!"</blockquote>

    Serious food for thought here folks. The wake up call has sounded.

    Re: Consumers &amp; Credit Cards

    thanks for posting this jeffrey... i think we all know someone who is spending like there is no tommorrow.... i just don't understand why ppl. don't want to be debt free....


      Re: Consumers &amp; Credit Cards

      I don't either. I Can't Wait to be debt-free!


        Re: Consumers &amp; Credit Cards

        One problem is that people don't look at the total cost. They focus on immediate cash flow. As long as they make their payments, all is well, and they are free to spend as usual. Any bobble in that cash flow, and they find out they're performing without a net.

        Story - I was shopping for a cell phone this spring. I asked each sales rep to give me the total baseline cost of the various contract options. Not one of them could do it. I was told by one vendor that nobody had ever asked for that number.

        So people are signing contracts without ever computing what they can expect to spend? No wonder debt is out of control.


          Re: Consumers &amp; Credit Cards

          great replies... i always ask too many questions...... but, i really have a creative mind and need answers... this way i can think thru every deal....